Our homeschool curriculum

We started our 8th year of homeschooling a few weeks ago. Yes, we start early. It was too hot to be outside with temps of over 90 degrees & sweltering humidity. Plus we like to end our school year early to enjoy the nicer weather. Believe it or not, it was at my kids insistence that we started (they wanted to try some of our new curriculum). We start out slow only introducing a few subjects at a time. My children get some of their core subjects at our homeschool co-op (more on that later this week). There are also some subjects we do together. Some of the read alouds (like Mystery of History, Zoology & Bible) we all read together.

We have learned through the years what works and doesn't work with each child. We use a variety of different publishers as I feel a boxed set lacks in some ways (for us). I've also discovered what works for one child might not always work for another, which is the beauty of homeschooling. I can customize their learning to not only what fits each child but also to incorporate specific things they want to learn about outside of our required subjects. (last year Susan had a passion to research and learn more about the Titanic which I made happen for her).

The easiest way to share what we are using this year is to just list them by grades so here ya go:

4th Grade:
Bob Jones 4
Spotlight on American & real books
Spanish in 10 min a day (CD) & Speekee (online)

6th Grade:
Spelling/Vocabulary City (online)
Mastering Vocabulary
Bob Jones 6
Teaching Textbooks (math) 6
Thomas Jefferson Education-This week in History
Spanish in 10 minutes a day (CD) & Speekee (online)
GrapeVine Bible Study Joseph

7th Grade: (the twins)
Spelling/Vocabulary City
Bob Jones
Teaching Textbooks (math) 7
Zoology 3
Mystery of History 2
Thomas Jefferson Education-This week in History
Abeka Civics Activity Book (Pa History & Civics)
Rosetta Stone (spanish) & Speekee
GrapeVine Bible Study Joseph

I also have a subscription to Schoolhouse Teachers.com where I receive some of our curriculum that I use for art, daily writing prompts for journaling and a lot of other things just to change it up so the kids don't get bored. We also do extra curricular activities besides our book work and of course frequent the library almost weekly. We even use some apps on the iPad for learning!

I've learned to keep an open mind when it comes to curriculum and what better way to get ideas of new things to try than to ask my friends (many of whom has directed me to some of what we now use). What is some of your favorite curriculum?
Not Back to School Blog Hop

Schoolhouse Teachers.com

I was recently given a subscription to Schoolhouse Teachers to try out. I didn't know much about this website except that it was a homeschooling resource. I just expected to see some print outs, some PDF files and maybe some resources. Boy was I in for treat! As I started perusing the site, I felt like a kid at Christmas as I opened up the different topics and subjects. I didn't know where to start to be honest as there is truly just so much! I saw there was 2 video site tours that I figured I should watch and I'm glad I did. They briefly explained how to use the teacher lesson plans as well as the daily studies.

The website is very organized & simple to navigate. There are 4 main areas:
-Schoolhouse Teachers
-Schoolhouse Dailies
-Schoolhouse Extras
-Schoolhouse Library

What I found fascinating about the schoolhouse teachers section is that they have some of the biggest names in online and home education teaching in a variety of subjects all laid out for you. I don't know about other busy moms but I LOVE having a lesson placed in front of me with everything I need. All I have to focus on is the actual implementing and teaching part. Not only do they have all the work done saving me time, they also are available via email if we need any additional help or support. Some of the subjects currently listed under this section are:
-Career Exploration   -Chemistry        -College Choice Guidance    
- Ecomonics              -Figures in History      -Filmaking        
-Geography              -High School Math      -History                 
-Home Ec               -Lapbooking                 -Literature
-Music                    -Reading Lessons        -Special Needs          
-Technology            -Writing

Schoolhouse Teachers.com has activities for Pre-K all the way up to high school. So there is something for everyone. One of my kids favorites has been the daily writing prompts. Every day there is a new idea for something to write about. Each of my kids has a journal that I like them to write in about whatever they want. Sometimes they are stumped about what to write so these daily writing prompts are great for their journaling. Each day they find it exciting to see what the new topic will be. For example, one from this past week was:

-We all know that summer can sizzle as the temperature rises. Write about your favorite ways to stay cool when the weather turns hot.

 The daily writing is just one example of what is under Schoolhouse Dailies. There are many other great areas covered (grammar, math, history just to name a few.) I love that there is something new to discover in this section Monday thru Friday saving me time by having it right there to use. The only thing I would change in this area would be to have the ability to look ahead a week or so to be able to plan rather than looking it up each day. A way to remedy this is to just go back a week and use the previous weeks "dailies" to be able to plan out a week at a time.  

A few other highlights worth mentioning that are included is The Old Schoolhouse magazine. Not only the monthly edition but you have access to the older issues. (If you have a smartphone, there is also a free app you can use to access this.) There are also e-books, reading lists, MP3 recordings of the schoolhouse expo just to list a few examples.

BUT that isn't all! One of the best parts that are included with your membership is access to all 5 homeschool planners.

There is the "big momma" with over 800 pages. Just a few of the things you'll find in it are calendars, field trip log, even a meal planning area as well as a wealth of articles that I found very informative. There are also planners for special learners, primary, intermediate and high school. Each planner allows you to fully customize it by either typing into the planner on your computer and saving/printing it or you can just print it out plain and hand write on it. I loved the fact that one of the layouts on the main planner has a layout for 4 kids for each day which means I don't have to have 4 separate pages each day to write in. I can condense it and just need 1 page per school day.

Not only is a schoolhouse membership invaluable, it's very affordable! Your first month membership only costs $3 (yes you read that right) and each month after that is just $12.95 a month. I would encourage you to head over to their sample pages and take a look around. Give the first month a try since it only costs $3. I have no doubt you will love it as much as I have!


As  a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received this product at no cost to me in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Noah's Sky Lantern Release video

About a month ago, I shared that one of the things I wanted to do to remember & celebrate Noah was to release 2 big sky lanterns that I got for his 2nd birthday. I also wanted to honor the memories other babies who are also in Heaven. I was so incredibly humbled & blessed to have 91 babies to celebrate with Noah as well. They included families I know in real life as well as those I've "met" online.

Those who haven't lost a baby don't realize that seeing our babies name in writing or hearing their name outloud is one of the best gifts anyone can give us. It shows that our babies lives mean something for someone to take the time to acknowledge them. Because I know how much it means to me when others remember Noah & speak & write his name, I wanted to use this time of remembrance to pay it forward and write others babies names to acknowledge their existence which all too easily gets forgotten by many.

As I took the time writing every name on the lanterns, I said a prayer for each family of those special babies. Many of their stories I know, while others I don't. But what I do know about all of them is that each of these precious babies are so loved and deeply missed by many!

I am thankful that Jesus died for my sins giving me the ability to see my son again in Heaven. If it wasn't for that loving sacrifice, I don't think I would still be standing here after the death of Noah. The thought of never ever seeing him again would be awful. I look forward to the day that not only do I see Jesus face to face but that amazing moment where Noah will come running into my arms, oh what a glorious reunion that will be!

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him should not die but have eternal life. 
John 3:16

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.
Revelation 21:4

"The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up."
-Mark Twain

*excuse the handwriting. It was difficult writing on the lanterns as it was thinner than tissue paper so I had to be careful I didn't tear it. We sent off 2 but were only able to launch one at a time due to the flames going out which is why you only see one in the video. Now that I know how to do it, it will go easier next time. I'm thinking 3 for Noah's 3rd birthday next year & even more names to include!

Noah & Olivia's Birthday Party

When I started thinking about Noah & Olivia's birthday a few months ago, it was pretty easy to come up with a theme for the party. I shared about the origin and meaning of Olivia's name after she was born.....

Many people have asked the significance of Olivia's name. We actually chose the name when I was pregnant with Erik over 8 years ago as it was a name we loved and felt that it went along great with our other girls names. When we were pregnant with Noah, if he had been a girl, we again wanted to use the name. So this time, we felt even more of a draw to use the name Olivia because the name was tied into Noah's story. Both because he would've been named this, as well as what else I discovered during my pregnancy as I dug deeper into the meaning of this name. Olivia means olive branch. In the Bible, an olive branch signifies peace. After the great flood, the dove flew to Noah and gave him an olive branch to show him that it was the end of the flood, giving him a sign of peace. Our Olivia is the olive branch from God and even Noah (and her being miraculously born on his birthday is proof of that!) In the world of baby loss, she is also known as a "rainbow baby". Just like Noah in the Bible was given a rainbow after the flood, so were we given our rainbow....

So all things considering, it was easy for me to decide on Noah's Ark & Rainbows for the theme. Not only did it include a specific theme for each Noah & Olivia but both ideas went together so well.

I admit I didn't sleep well the night before their birthdays. I kept waking up with a pit in my stomach and just wasn't feeling well. As my morning went on, I was flooded with texts, emails and facebook messages from so many people that said they were thinking of and praying for me. It truly helped as I could feel the prayers and I started feeling a lot better. I am so thankful for the many precious friends who took the time to encourage me, it meant a lot!

The day was spent finishing up party prep as we were having their birthday party that evening. I figured being surrounded by dear friends on their exact birthday was the perfect way to celebrate Noah & Olivia.

I made my own animal nacho chips to go with my homemade salsa.

A rainbow jello mold. Lot's of fun but it takes time to make the 12 layers.

I carved an "ark" out of watermelon to serve fruit in.

This is a glimpse of one of the areas that had food & decorations. I made a timeline taking one picture from each of Olivia's 12 months to display. There were also Noah's Ark items scattered around (such as that puzzle in the back that Susan had made & glued together).

Olivia's cake......looks pretty simple.......

.........until you cut it open! This was fun to make!

 (I also made homemade ice cream to go along with the cakes.)

Of course Noah also got his own cake as well. I decided to do chocolate cupcakes with a peanut butter icing. It was simple compared to his cake I did last year. 

Singing Happy Birthday to Noah & Olivia. She didn't want to put down that smooshed cup or ball. lol And I love that she is still wearing her "Noah's baby sister" shirt that a friend gave her when she was born. Yes she still fits into it!

All in all, it was a great party. Hard to believe that this was the first time in 3 years I wasn't in the hospital having a baby on this day. Olivia was a bit shy since there were so many people around. I am thankful for everyone who made it a memorable day (and we missed those of you who weren't able to be here). Olivia enjoyed opening her gifts (when she wasn't busy eating ice cream lol) We were even blessed to get many cards for Noah, not only from those who were at the party but from many other friends as well. We also received a few special items in his memory. I can't tell you how much it meant to us to have SO many people remembering and celebrating both Noah & Olivia!!! THANK YOU!!!!! Thank you for remembering we had 2 babies born on this day who both deserve celebrating!!! That alone was the best gift!

Despite what this road has entailed, we are so incredibly thankful & blessed to have been given both Noah & Olivia, on the same day even! What a miracle their lives are! I look forward to the coming years and seeing how God will continue to use both Noah & Olivia's lives and stories for His glory.

This photo was a challenge for me to take as she kept wanting to walk around & chase the animals. lol

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-16

2 years in Heaven

Noah, it’s hard to believe that 2 years ago today you took your last breath in our arms and met Jesus. It seems like yesterday but also feels like a lifetime ago. Even though you aren’t physically here with us, your life continues to have a ripple effect, impacting many. I thank God for giving you to us. Even though a piece of me is forever missing, I would rather have only had you for a moment then to have never have had you and missed out on a lifetime of blessings your life has brought us. You have taught us so much! You are missed more than words could ever express! I love you my precious son and can't wait for that day I get to hug you again! <3

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4

This verse became real to me the day Noah died. The weeks leading up to Noah's birth and subsequent death were filled with wondering "how am I going to ever be able to handle watching my son die". Just the thought alone had constantly brought me to tears and took my breath away. But in that moment when we knew Noah's heart was slowing down, there was incredible peace. A peace that I can't even begin to describe, nothing like we had ever felt before. You could literally feel God in that room, His arms wrapped around us, holding us close. There were no tears as Noah took his last breath (those came later), only words of thankfulness and praise for all we had been blessed to experience with Noah. God met us there in that very moment, not before we needed it but right when we needed it

Each time he said, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
2 Cor 12:9 (NLT)

Happy Birthday Noah & Olivia

This is a side by side picture of both my precious babies, in the same hospital room on their shared birthdays.  They both liked putting their hand by their face. Amazing how much they looked alike as newborns.
 Happy Birthday my 2 precious blessings! I love you both so very much!!

(I'll update in a few days about their birthday, it's been a long day)

And the winner is......

Elisabeth G!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you all SO very much for entering and for all the encouraging comments you left as well. I truly appreciate it, especially this week. Thanks again for the support and I hope to do another giveaway in the future.

This and that plus a giveaway

I've been having trouble sleeping lately. It's probably due to everything on my mind right now. I find myself reliving Noah's brief lifetime and thinking about how closely Noah & Olivia's lives are tied together. It still blows my mind she was born on his 1st birthday in the same hospital room as him, wow!

We also got a phone call that we've been both waiting for and dreading all at the same time. But more on that in another post as I don't want to start crying again.

Anyway, I knew that this week would be emotional but I wanted to do a little something for someone else to help cheer me up. We don't go to the mall often but when I was there recently I saw Bath & Body Works had a sale going on. So with you my readers in mind, I picked up a small set of shower gel & body spray in the Sweet Pea scent to give away. I thought the name is fitting as I wanted to do a giveaway in honor of Noah & Olivia's birthday, my precious little sweet pea's (and it happens to be one of my favorite scents as well).

Thank you again to the many of you who have continued to uplift our family in prayer as well as the encouragement you've given us through messages, emails, etc. We truly appreciate it!

Drawing ends on Olivia & Noah's birthday! I will post the winner here as well as contact them afterwards to get an address to send this to you. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'm using rafflecopter to host the giveaway (plus it makes it easy & fair for all ;) ) For those who have never entered a drawing using it, it's pretty simple and tells you what to do. You don't have to do all the enteries, I just put several options on there to give you plenty of chances to win. If you have any questions, feel free to email me. If this goes well, I will try to hold more giveaways in the future. ;)

If you are a babyloss mom & would like me to remember your precious baby on Noah's birthday & homegoing day, I'd love to include their name on his sky lanterns.

"For it is in giving that we receive."
-St Francis of Assisi

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
John 15:12

Happy 11th Birthday Hannah

Yesterday, July 5th, was Hannah's 11th birthday. For those that don't know, my kids like to request complicated birthday cakes as I enjoy a challenge (and really do like decorating). This year Hannah asked for a hamburger cake (no clue where she came up with this idea at). My friend Naomi had instructions she gave me which helped me greatly in making this cake. Hannah had a great day that ended in a firework show in our driveway. Even though this 3rd child of mine was 3 weeks late (due June 14th), she was worth the wait! <3

And it's July...

Oh the thoughts that have been tossing around in my head this last day or so. I honestly wasn't prepared to get slammed by the onslaught of emotions that has hit me since Saturday. In my mind, I was trying to ignore the fact that June was rapidly coming to an end.

It didn't work. *sigh*

The last day of June found us attending a picnic that started as an annual tradition last year for the first time. This year, the brothers & sisters picnic was held at Litiz park. There were many neat activities for all the kids. They decorated flower pots and picked a flower to plant in them,  made a little clay stone (that we baked at home) and each made a beaded bracelet with Noah's name. Erik even held a snake and Steven Courtney and his band did a concert.

I admit, while I was thankful the kids once again had an event just for them & others who have lost a sibling, it triggered a lot of feelings for me. Seeing all these families that each also lost a child was heartbreaking. I know part of the way I was feeling like I was is due to the fact that Noah's birthday is coming up and I am really missing my boy.

It's just a totally bittersweet time. For each milestone Olivia reaches, we are reminded of what we haven't gotten to experience with Noah. I know those who don't "get it" say oh you should be happy as you have Olivia and it's almost her birthday. Quiet honestly, I find that very hurtful. Remember, Olivia does not replace Noah. I AM happy I have Olivia's birthday to celebrate on the same day as Noah's (though I'm sad at how fast she is growing up). I KNOW I am blessed to have 5 living children. I realize God has a plan in all this and I have accepted that.

But I don't need to be reminded of that.

What I need is for people to just be accepting. Yes, it's almost 2 years since Noah died. But it's only 2 years compared to a lifetime of facing this grief and 2 years is still early in this journey. Everyone remembers Olivia and her upcoming birthday but not everyone realizes or accepts that Noah's life is just as significant as the rest of my kids and deserves the same recognition.

What I ask for is some grace, understanding and prayer. Maybe even a little compassion and love. I may be more withdrawn, forgetful, or teary-eyed at times. Please remember why I don't seem myself. A part of me is missing and this month is honestly hard as we celebrate his birth and remember his death only a day later. Don't be afraid to mention Noah's name or talk to me/us about him. That is the greatest gift anyone can do, just remember him.

This dance of joy and grief is a difficult one as in many moments I feel both those emotions intertwined together. But that's ok. I accept that this is the path God chose for my life and I am thankful for how He is using Noah's life in great ways. This journey may not always be easy but I know in the end it will all be worth it!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

Though sorrow may last through the night, joy comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
John 16:22

Weed it and Reap!

"A garden is a work of heart"

Ahh gardening, one of my favorite past times! Truth be told, I didn't like our garden when I was a kid. It felt like we were always out there weeding or working in it. Somewhere along the line when I became married and we bought our first house, I actually wanted to give gardening a try. I discovered I actually enjoyed it! I think the difference was that now as an adult, I was in charge of the full process, from planting to harvesting and everything in between.

sweet 100 cherry tomatoes

9 1/2 years ago, we moved to our current place and I knew I would finally have space to have an even larger garden to keep up with our growing family. With each year that I plant, I have learned things both through reading as well as trial and error. A few of those gems are:

-scattering radish seeds in a large area rather than intentionally planting the seeds will produce a mammoth size crop leaving you to google 101 ways to use radishes (I discovered you can roast them & pickle them, neither of which I would've known had I not had an over-abundance. I've done both and they are both tasty ways to enjoy radishes).

-laying newspaper between rows, then wetting them down really well works great at keeping weeds from coming up. It then composts right into the soil.

-laying hair around the garden repels rabbits. (granted with my size garden I'd need to shave the heads of all my kids to have enough hair which isn't going to happen lol). Some salons will give you hair if you request it ahead of time.

-using 1 gallon milk or water jugs with the bottom cut off and placed over early plantings protects them from frost and acts like a mini greenhouse giving your plants a boost in growth.


Those are just a few things that come to mind that I use most frequently. I rotate my garden each year so the same plants are switched around. I do this as different veggies require different nutrients from the ground. So putting them in a different spot every other year ensures that my soil won't be depleted of what they need.

Things like onions, radishes, lettuce, spinach, and green beans have a quicker growing season so I plant in stages to stagger my harvesting. You will see occasional empty places in my garden, that is only because I am waiting a week or 2 to plant the next crop.

look to the bottom you can see a radish peeking up out of the ground

The produce I have this year in my garden:
     -sweet 100 cherry
     -early girl
     -amish paste
     -big boy
-zucchini (these are so versatile and you can make lots of goodies with them!)
-green beans
-herbs (oregano, cilantro, basil, parsley) 

I do a lot of canning and freezing as well as making salsa, pickles, jam, etc. I truly find it therapeutic to get up early in the morning, when everyone else is sleeping and go out to work in the garden. It gives me the rare "me time" as well as time to pray and just simply "be".

In just 3 weeks time, you can see the growth spurt my garden had

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy."
Psalm 126:5